Sunday, November 25, 2012

Making changes, giving thanks and trotting like a turkey

As of Monday, Nov. 19, I am officially the Web Content Specialist at the City of Irving. It's an exciting time to join the city. It recently received the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, and new developments (DART's Orange Line and Water Street in Las Colinas) are positive signs for the city of 220,000.

My career has been a winding one. This latest move is just what I had been looking for — new challenges, more structure/organization and all-around positive.

For those who follow me on Twitter, the biggest work-related change on that channel is already apparent: The hourly links to random, interesting stories are no more. That's no longer part of my job. Instead, part of my new gig includes overseeing the city's Facebook and Twitter pages. Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't say that the views I share here or post on my personal Twitter page do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.

Taking a photo with a timer is always a comedic process.
This photo shows it's worth the effort.
Thanksgiving was great this year. In addition to starting a new job, I have countless blessings for which I am thankful. Good friends, wonderful relationships and abundant love are at the top of the list. I was happy I had so much free time this holiday to spend with my sister and mother. We reminisced about past holidays, put up/decorated two Christmas trees and had a fantastic dinner at Central 214 at Hotel Palomar — the Potato Gruyere Gratin might be the best side dish I've ever had. And the incredible gnocchi with ricotta salata, buttercup squash and mushroom was dynamite. Considering it's meat-centric holiday, I was very impressed with the thoughtful selections for vegetarians on the menu. My compliments to chef Graham Dodds for putting together such a wonderful array of seasonal treats.

That's me in the middle, just about ready to pass out from
sprinting the final half-mile. I love that the pic has the
Omni Hotel and Reunion Tower in the background. Dallas!
Eating such an immense, delicious, high-calorie feast is made all the easier when you start the day with a bit of physical exertion. My sister and I participated in the Dallas YMCA Turkey Trot. Celebrating its 45th year, The Trot is a 5K/8-mile race that is more "fun run" than anything I've ever done. There's always a first for everything, yes? Since this was my first (only?) 8-mile race, an automatic PR was in the bag. Considering how congested the streets were for the first two miles (strollers, dogs, walkers, oh my!) I was pleased with my time of 1:01:42. It's not easy piling into a corral with 40,000 other people and negotiating jam-packed city streets. I didn't expect the race to be as seamless, runner-friendly or organized as the half-marathons and marathons I've raced, so I wasn't too disappointed (frustrated at times, sure) with the chaos of the race.

In just 13 days, the Dallas Marathon will start near the same spot as The Trot. This training cycle is winding down, and I am feeling great. Last year, I didn't have much of a clue what I was doing. I was fairly certain I could finish the race, but I didn't know what it would be like. Entering this year's race, I have improved my training and I better understand what it takes to run this distance. If all goes as planned, I'll have a great accomplishment to share on this blog.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tunesday: Shorties but goodies

A typical single is about three to five minutes. It's rare for anything clocking in much longer than that sweet spot will become a hit. One rulebreaker is Oasis' full-length version of "All Around the World" (nearly 10 minutes long). The band reached no. 1 with the track on the U.K. charts in 1998 ... not unlike their major influence, The Beatles and their seven-minute "Hey Jude," which set the standard for a lengthy hit prominently featuring "nah" decades earlier.

I'm not the first (nor the last) to say this: Short and sweet can be a nice thing. Recently, NME and Paste championed the best sub-two-minute songs. Between the two, obvious tracks ("Fell In Love With a Girl" and "Vaseline") are listed, but there are some less-heralded quickies ("Tourettes" and "I Will") that receive their due. But there are others that I'm fond of, so why not give you a few:

"Frank Mills," The LemonheadsOnly Evan Dando can get away with covering this song from "HAIR." Growing up, I didn't have a clue about the song's origin. I just thought it was a cool, strange track. "It's a Shame About Ray" is a perfect rainy-day record that features five, sub-to-minute tracks. Just put it on and let it play over and over.

"Rave On," Buddy Holly: Lubbock's own. Most of his songs with The Crickets were less than three minutes long. And most of them are gems. A pure song-writing genius.

"Let's Go," Rancid: Sure, there are at least a few really good Minor Threat or Fugazi songs that could go right here, too. But when it comes to quick, catchy, piss-n-vinegar punk, I opt for Rancid.

"Flute Loop," Beastie Boys: Sampled from "Flute Thing" by The Blues Project, this song just makes me happy. And sometimes that's all a song needs to do. Am I right?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tunesday: "It Won't Be The Last Time," Justin Townes Earle

Steve Earle's son hasn't had an idyllic life so far. Some good has come from a tough life filled with run-ins with the law and addiction, namely an impressive catalog of intensely powerful songs. His latest album, "Nothing's Going To Change The Way You Feel About Me Now," is the 30-year-old Earle's finest. Although his previous release, "Harlem River Blues," received more critical praise, "Nothing's Going To Change" finds the Americana singer-songwriter comfortable with his lot in life. Unapologetic and self-aware, Earle is in a comfortable place that affords us a peek into his world. And it's an increasingly interesting place to visit.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tunesday: "Mayor of Simpleton," XTC

Wrong or not, I lump XTC in the category of "nerd rock." Other bands/artists that fall in the category include They Might Be Giants, Weezer, The Flaming Lips and "Weird Al" Yankovic, to name a few. The common thread is that they don't necessarily look like they rock.  But, boy, do they ever. And I love their music, unique style and mold-breaking approach to rocking and/or rolling.

XTC is a fine example of a band of technically skilled musicians and songwriters whose success was most likely negatively affected by the power of MTV. When Music Television played music videos, style trumped substance, especially in its first decade. More than ever, talented artists needed to look the part. If they didn't, the song either needed to be truly outstanding and/or its video needed to be technically groundbreaking, feature scantily clad models and/or be a thinly-veiled advertisement (looking directly at you, Dire Straits, and you, The Cars).

I never owned any of XTC's albums, but their tracks slipped into my life's soundtrack over the years ("The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" and "Making Plans for Nigel"). The first song I heard by XTC was the excellent but controversial tune "Dear God,"  but "Simpleton" remains one of my favorite songs by any band. Why? No question about it: That's a sick bass line, y'all. Colin Moulding is all over that fretboard, just rolling throughout the whole song. It's a complicated line, but it doesn't overwhelm the rest of the tune; instead, it complements the melody and propels the track. It's just genius.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


The first running race I ever entered was the DRC Half in 2011. I figured it would be a good idea to know what racing felt like before I tackled last year's White Rock Marathon. Racing the Half turned out to be a good decision, namely because I had a bad-for-me race. I overheated, cramped from dehydration and had to walk a good bit in order to finish at 2:09:22. Even though I struggled, it felt great to race. My time was good despite the struggle and I learned that I needed to improve my hydration strategy. I made that change and I proceeded to have an excellent first marathon. 

Working toward my third marathon — I'm shooting for a very good race at the Dallas Marathon next month — I figured why not run the Half again. It's close to my house, on a familiar course and friends are running it, too. My training is far better than what I was doing last year. I've added a healthy mix of hills, which have made me stronger, lighter and faster. Entering this year's Half, I thought I was capable of besting my PR (1:49:42 at a chilly Texas Half) but I would be content with at least maintaining a consistent 8-minute-or-so pace and possibly speeding up on the back half.  

Courtesy of TPG
At about 4.5 miles, I was stoked to see
friends who biked down to cheer on
the runners. Upon seeing them and their
signs — one was a large cutout of my
face! — and hearing their encouragement,
I knew I was going to have a strong race.
It was an awesome surprise.  
The race started great. The weather was perfect — 50s, occasional breeze — and the hour we gained from reverting back to standard time meant extra rest. Of course, "falling back" also meant more sunshine during the race; the temperature steadily increased. Nothing too bad. I stayed hydrated, carrying my trusty Nathan handheld, which I filled twice on the course, and I popped one to three Endurolytes every 35-40 minutes.

Courtesy of TPG
Ten-and-a-half miles done at this point, I
knew a PR was still attainable. Better yet, I
still felt great. Bonus: I also saw Mama C
cheering at this section of the course!
The course is sorta hilly by Dallas' standards. There's a residential section from mile 3 to mile 7 that presents a challenge to runners of this mostly flat region. Last year, I struggled with the hills and had to walk some. I had no problems with them this year. Now, that doesn't mean I love running uphill or that I'm great at it. What it means is that I handle them fairly well now and don't dread inclines when I approach them (a lesson learned from the OKC Marathon). 

Courtesy of TPG
The finish line in sight, I pushed the
pace. Always finish strong!
I neared the finish line and saw my friends again (elite spectathletes That Pink Girl, Heidi and Brian, and Greg (who most recently dominated a double century) and my sister (I cannot wait to run the Turkey Trot with her!) who shot the following clip:

Half marathon number four in the books, I have a shiny new PR — 1:47:36 — and I feel confident entering the last month of marathon training. What's more, it's an exciting time of year. There are exceptional opportunities and challenges in front of me (more about those later), and I cannot wait to take them on as I continue to grow and live the best life I could have ever hoped for.  And I have the photo to prove it.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Halloween fashion, Austin trip, Ironman 70.3, sketchy dive bar, my name with an "E"

So I had high hopes I would find a new costume to wear to work on Halloween (costumes are mandatory at my office). I frequented thrift stores and discount retailers and tried to piece together some semblance of a clever or cool outfit. I failed. What you see above is an attempt to dress like a hipster — striped shirt and loud-red skinny jeans. I didn't purchase either. I ended up wearing my costume from last year: the alligator outfit I wore for a "Swamp People" group. Next year, I plan to retire the gator and come up with a great Halloween idea. Your input is welcome.

We spent last weekend in one of my favorite cities — Austin. The primary purpose of the trip was Ironman 70.3 (more on that shortly). But we also managed to hit up some of the places that make ATX so dang cool — Mellow Johnny's, Mother's Cafe, Ken's Donuts and Toy Joy, among others. It's been a dozen years since I lived in the city and a lot has changed, but it's still a special place to me. I can't imagine a day when the thought of hanging out in the capital city will lose its appeal.

That fella right there is the one-and-only Andy Potts. He's kind of a big deal in the triathlon world that I know scant about. As cool as it was to see elite triathletes last weekend (Andy emerged from the lake in 22:34!!!), I was there to support That Pink Girl.

I'm not even going to lie: When I saw the new name and sign for this bar near my house, I pronounced it Al-eee-bees. Half a second later, I shook my head and realized my mistake. I will go on the record and say I will not frequent this spot on a few blocks from my home. Formerly named Three Points, you may remember it from such police reports as "Dallas police investigate shootings outside of open mic rap show in Lake Highlands area". I get that crime can (and does) happen anywhere, but it's always disturbing when it's in your backyard.

A neighborhood business I do support is the cleaners down the street, even though the folks there continue to spell my last name with an E. That's always bothered me and the entire Tracy family, including Dick and Spencer.